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Communities Talk: Town Hall on Underage Drinking and Mental Health

Hosted by: Siouxland CARES About Substance Abuse, Growing Community Connections

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Please briefly describe your Communities Talk activity.

We held a virtual town hall via Zoom and live-streamed the event via Facebook. Our event featured a doctor from the Iowa Poison Control Center and a staff member from Heartland Counseling Services. We also hosted a panel and Q&A session for youth and parents, featuring those two guests with other panelists including law enforcement representatives and a therapist. We received positive feedback from the 232 participants who participated through Zoom, watched live via Facebook, or watched a recording following the event. Of the youth who participated, 94 percent responded that they felt that “the presentations and discussions helped [them] to gain knowledge or skills to help [them] make healthy choices.” One parent sent in the following comment: “I'm so glad my husband and I were able to sit down with our son and listen to this. We had questions for him, and he also had questions for us. We had great family conversations.”

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How does underage drinking and substance misuse affect your community?

Siouxland CARES conducted a tri-state area youth survey about substance use in 2019. Fortunately, as with much of the country, we have seen a general decline in misuse of alcohol by our youth. However, alcohol continues to be an issue, and vaping is a significant issue.

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What goal(s) did you hope to accomplish with your Communities Talk activity?

  • Create an ongoing conversation about underage drinking and substance use prevention in the community
  • Foster collaboration between community stakeholders for continued underage drinking and substance use prevention activities
  • Encourage family conversations related to alcohol and other teen issues.
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Who did you involve in your activity planning, and who did your activity impact?

When planning the event, we involved local representatives from nonprofits and businesses who sit on the Siouxland CARES Advisory Board, as well as youth representatives from the Mayor’s Youth Commission. Additionally, our staff met with other individuals from diverse backgrounds to see how the event marketing and content could be more inclusive. We also partnered with the Growing Community Connections group, and through their support were able to use the Zoom account of the University of Nebraska, in case the attendance exceeded our organization’s Zoom limit.

Lastly, a Sioux City Council member and two youth volunteers recorded short promotional videos about the event to share with intended audiences. Our intended audiences were youth, parents, and others who are within the circle of influence for our youth.

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Which Communities Talk resources (or other SAMHSA resources) were most helpful for your activity?

  • Communities Talk website
  • Communities Talk planning guides
  • Communities Talk toolkits
  • Communities Talk social media content (e.g., Facebook, Twitter)
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Did the COVID-19 pandemic affect the planning or execution of your activities?

Yes. We generally host town hall meetings in person, but because of the COVID-19 pandemic, we adapted to an online setting via Zoom. Our partnership with Growing Community Connections helped us to access online facilitators to keep the meeting on target and well managed.

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What other challenge(s) did you face in planning your activity this year?

  • Adapting to conducting a virtual activity
  • Change in organizational structure or staff
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How did you overcome these challenges?

Our organization experienced staff changes during the time the event was being planned. However, with assistance from other organizations, financial and material support from SAMHSA, and great support from the staff members who were transitioning roles at the time, we were able to organize a meeting that had strong attendance and great feedback.

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What are your next steps?

  • Host follow-up meetings or activities
  • Expand our coalition with new partnerships in the community
  • Conduct research efforts to learn more about issues in our community

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